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Review: Japan – Senegal

Review: Japan – Senegal
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An entertaining contest in Ekaterinburg between Japan and Senegal ended 2-2. The Lions of Teranga twice had the lead through Sadio Mane and Moussa Wague, but The Samurai Blue came back both times thanks to Takashi Inui and Keisuke Honda.

The game in Ekaterinburg was a matchup between the surprise first and second placed teams in Group H. In the 12th minute, Sadio Mane scored without even trying. Moussa Wague sent a cross that Haraguchi cleared relatively poorly, basically assisting Youssouf Sabaly. The right back fired a shot that Kawashima punched right into Sadio Mane’s knee. The ball deflected into Japan’s net, giving Senegal a 1-0 lead. In 30 minutes of play, we didn’t see a single serious threat. Both teams were active, but chances weren’t being created. The Japanese were winning the midfield battle, thus had more possession.

Then, in the 34th minute, the game was tied. A wonderful long ball by Maya Yoshida found Yuto Nagatomo in Senegal’s area. The left back’s first touch froze two opposition defenders and Nagatomo moved inside. Takashi Inui practically stole the ball from his teammate and his accurate shot went past N’Diaye and into the net. The two teams were even on the field and even on the scoreboard. In the 39th minute, Niang didn’t catch the ball as good as he would’ve liked to, otherwise there could’ve been another scoreline alteration. This way, Kawashima made the save.

Trying to shield himself, M’Baye Niang elbowed Makoto Hasebe on the nose. Japan’s captain had to come out for doctors to take care of the bleeding. In ten second-half minutes, we saw a couple of shots on either side. Later, Niang swung his arm and smacked Shoji in the face. This time, Gianluca Rocchi booked him. In the 60th minute, Yuya Osako missed a chance that was more difficult to miss than to score from. Gaku Shibasaki sent a low, forward cross. All Osako needed to do was tap the ball in, but instead he missed the ball entirely. In the 65th minute, Osako avoided an offside trap and then found Inui with a creative backheel pass. Inui was in a similar position like when he scored the first-half goal and he attempted the same shot. Unfortunately for him and all Samurai Blue fans, he hit the cross bar.

Aliou Cisse had to react. His team was losing control of the contest. Cheikhou Kouyate for Alfred N’Diaye was Cisse’s first move. In the 71st minute, Senegal regained the lead. Mane made a nice pass to Sabaly, who followed up his pirouette with a low cross. Niang touched the ball, enough to slow it down and set it up for Moussa Wague on the other side. The 19-year-old fired a bullet of a shot in the near upper corner to bring joy to the African fans at the stadium. Right after the goal, Keisuke Honda replaced Shinji Kagawa. A few minutes later, Japan had another chance after a corner kick. Next, Haraguchi was substituted by Shinji Okazaki. Senegal didn’t really deserve the lead, but it was theirs to lose nonetheless.

And they lost it. In the 79th minute, their goalkeeper didn’t clear the ball properly. It came to Takashi Inui, who saw two teammates and took a chance by returning the ball back towards the center of the box. Keisuke Honda was ready for it and forwarded it in the net, tying the game at two goals a piece. Cheikh N’Doye replaced Pape N’Diaye after the goal. Mame Biram Diouf and Takashi Usami were the last two players to enter the pitch. The match finished 2-2, although if it weren’t for Senegal’s side backs, the Japanese probably would’ve won. Nevertheless, we saw one of the most entertaining contests of the championship.